EPA Goals Include Improved Compliance

Improved compliance with drinking water regulations and increased water monitoring are just two of the priorities...

Improved compliance with drinking water regulations and increased water monitoring are just two of the priorities listed in the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Water Program Guidance for FY 2007.

For the past few years compliance with drinking water regulations has been declining. In 2005, 88.5% of the population served by community water systems received drinking water that met all applicable health-based drinking-water standards. That compares to a 93.6% compliance rate set in 2002. The target goal for 2007 is 90% compliance.

“Without aggressive efforts by EPA and States, new regulated contaminants, aging infrastructure, and the challenges to small systems will make it difficult to attain the 2008 goal of 95% of the population served by systems in compliance,” EPA said.

The guidance, released in late April, describes priorities for the National Water Program for FY 2007, outlines the strategy for accomplishing specific environmental goals in the coming year, and identifies measures used to assess progress. The steps outlined in the guidance are designed to accomplish the public health and environmental goals established in the Agency’s Strategic Plan.

It’s goals include:

• Fish Safe to Eat: reduce pollution in waters with fish advisories so that consumption limits can be relaxed for 3% of contaminated waters;

• Water Safe for Swimming: restore polluted waters to allow swimming again in at least 5% of the waters where swimming was unsafe in 2000;

• Healthy Waters: restore an increasing percentage of the approximately 20,000 impaired waters across the Nation, with the goal of restoring 25 percent of these waters by 2012;

• Healthy Coastal Waters: show steady improvement in seven specific indicators of the health of each of the four major coastal ecosystems around the country; and

• More Wetlands: marshal the resources of Federal agencies and others to meet the President’s goal to achieve an overall increase in the Nation’s wetlands, including restoring, improving, and protecting three million acres of wetlands over five years (by 2009).

The Strategic Plan also identifies additional goals for environmental improvements by 2008 in critical waters including the Gulf of Mexico, the Great Lakes, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Mexico Border area.

Water Priorities

EPA outlined five top priorities in its guidance:

1) Support Sustainable Water Infrastructure: Much of the progress in improving water quality over the last few decades is directly attributable to investment in wastewater infrastructure. EPA said it will give special attention to the effective operation of the State Revolving Fund Programs. The agency will also encourage adoption of proven management approaches, including environmental management systems and asset management, and work to enhance the market for water efficient products.

2) Contribute to the President’s Wetlands Goals: On Earth Day 2004, the President announced a new national goal of achieving an overall increase in the Nation’s wetlands, including restoring, improving, and protecting at least three million acres of wetlands over five years (by 2009). EPA has committed to contributing at least 12,000 acres toward the goal by 2009. A key step in meeting this commitment is building the capacity of State and Tribal wetlands programs.

3) Improve Monitoring: Improving monitoring, reporting and environmental goal setting to keep the nation’s waters clean, safe and secure remains a top priority. EPA will support States in implementing monitoring strategies developed over the past several years. A key part of this effort is state participation in the “snapshot” of condition of lakes across the country.

4) Restore and Improve Water Quality on a Watershed Basis: EPA plans to continue developing TMDLs for impaired waters; work with states to organize restoration plans on a waterbody basis; encourage the use of water quality trading and watershed permitting; and work with states to develop nutrient criteria.

5) Improve Compliance with Drinking Water Standards: In FY 2007, EPA, states, tribes and local water systems will focus on efforts to maintain compliance with existing drinking water standards, promptly address cases of noncompliance, and improve the quality of data by which drinking water compliance is measured. At the same time, EPA will continue to work with state and local partners to improve security at drinking water facilities through training and technical assistance and work with selected cities in a pilot program to develop surveillance and monitoring systems.

Copies of the guidance may be found at www.epa.gov/water/waterplan.

EPA Regulatory Agenda Includes Ground Water Rule Publication Date

The Ground Water Rule and the second Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule are among several measures that EPA plans to finalize this year, according to its semi-annual regulatory agenda. The agency also expects to propose revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule, but does not expect to act on the proposed Blending rule.

The repeatedly delayed Ground Water rule is scheduled for promulgation in August. EPA proposed a targeted risk-based regulatory strategy for all public water systems served by ground water in May of 2000. Although significantly rewritten since that initial proposal, the rule is designed to reduce public health risk for people served by ground water sources.

The proposed strategy includes a multiple-barrier approach that relies on five major components: periodic sanitary surveys of ground water systems requiring the evaluation of eight elements and the identification of significant deficiencies; hydrogeologic assessments to identify wells sensitive to fecal contamination; source water monitoring for systems drawing from sensitive wells without treatment or with other indications of risk; a requirement for correction of significant deficiencies and fecal contamination; and compliance monitoring to insure disinfection treatment is reliably operated where it is used.

The Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, slated for publication in November, includes only minor modifications to the current UCMR program to improve its implementation, to revise the lists of analyses to permit a second round of monitoring, and to approve the analytical methods needed to perform the monitoring.

Revisions to the Lead & Copper rule include several short-term actions that will be initiated in 2005 and completed during the 2005-2006 time frame. Regulatory changes to be addressed include clarifications about sample collection; clarifications to definitions for monitoring and compliance periods; modifications regarding public water system notification to their state of treatment changes prior to the change; revisions to language related to criteria for reduced monitoring; revisions to language regarding consideration of lead service line replacement for compliance purposes; revisions to language related to flushing guidance; and additional requirements for consumer notification of lead monitoring results.

On the Blending rule, EPA said it has “no intention of finalizing the blending policy as proposed in November 2003. EPA will continue to review policy and regulatory options to manage this issue...”

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